Friday, December 23, 2005

HOW YOU CHOOSE BOOKS and a holiday survey!

摘果子, originally uploaded by Pumpkin Chief.

Remember last week's survey in which I blindfolded you, led you to a bookstore, spun you around three times, and set you loose? Then, notebook in hand, I slyly followed you through the aisles.

Despite what the doomsayers and curmudgeons in the publishing world say about the public's increasing hunger for the "real story," (i.e. non-fiction) a surprising number of you headed straight for the fiction section. One of you was even kind enough to say you were looking for my (as yet) unpublished novel. (Thank you, Quillhill.)

So okay, it's probably a skewed survey. Or should I say definitely a skewed survey.(The fact that your second choice was poetry proved that the readership here is a) atypical and b) particularly wonderful.

Not that there's anything less marvelous about the other categories. Like many of you, I've left my muddy footprints in every corner of the bookstore.

The official tally went like this:

Fiction: 63 points

Poetry: 42

(The always mysterious) Other: 36

Non-fiction: 30

Spiritual Inspiration: 20

How to: 14

But what's proving to be the best part of the surveys is the uniqueness of the comments, and the things I've learned in the process.

This week, for instance, I learned what I'm missing in life when Sharon Hurlbut described the wonders of Powell's. And Kathryn pointed out a great resource she'd heard about on NPR, the PaperbackSwap.

And I particularly loved Peter's description of his annual pilgrimage to the book store:

I go to a bookstore once a year. I get on a fat rusty bicycle with paperboy bike tires and end up at The Island Bookstore just north of the Corolla Lighthouse near where my mother rents a beach cottage for my father and their grandchildren one week each summer.

But whether you rode on fat bicycle tires to a book store with beach sand on the floor, or got lost in Powell's for days, or travelled with your fingers to Amazon, I thank you for sharing your trip.

This week's survey was inspired by a question our family discussed recently on a long car trip. When you think of your best holiday memory, what is the first thing you recall?

a) a gift

b) a spiritual experience

c) a person

d) a particular moment

e) other

Though I've tried to stay out of it in the past, this time I want to play, too. My best memory was d) a moment--and one that was so seemingly ordinary that I have no idea why it stands out from all the other moments in all the other holidays of my life. It was Christmas Eve about eight years ago and our house was full of family and friends, spread across several rooms. I was wearing a long silky skirt, my legs curled under me on the couch, a glass of wine in hand. There was a fire in the fireplace and lights in every window; the Chieftains were playing on the stereo. But the real live music was the laughter and talk that flowed around the room, and looped through the house. For just a moment, I stopped and absorbed it all--the warmth, the light, the sounds--and I knew that this was it. This was happiness.

Peace and goodwill to all!


Anonymous said...

Hey, I love the name change! And the picture -- like the rest of them -- is delightful.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Quillhill said...

My Dad coming home from the hospital on Christmas Eve. We were all worn out, we had spent most of our free time at his bedside the week before, leaving little time for decorations, or gifts, or cookies--and none of that mattered, because we were all home again.

Anonymous said...

Visits, music, ornaments. Just ask me later.

For eleven months of the year, December lives in seven mauve bins in the attic of our garage. In March or July, when I need to, I pull down the folding steps and pull out a nutcracker or a favorite ornament, and I cry. (In The Sound and the Fury, doesn’t the idiot brother cope by living in his Christmas flashback during the hell of his family’s Passion Week?)

I unpack the bins the day after Thanksgiving. Loosed, December becomes insistent. I must assemble and string the tree, and I get cranky. I must pay for a year’s warm reflections over the relatives’ visit with the intensity of the visit itself. I get upset assembling toys. I get selfish, since December now is really for others. I forget that my children need to have some ornaments in their own attics so they can cry when they’re big enough to reach the cord.

Zhoen said...

My best Christmas was awful. My then new dear love and I were in Fort Collins waiting to be sent to Saudi Arabia for Gulf War I. It was bitter cold, the chow hall was closed for breakfast, and we found out- way too late that they were open for a Christmas Brunch. The cabs weren't running on post, no place was delivering food. All the food available was what families had sent in care packages- ie cookies and candy. And a lot of alcohol, which I wasn't touching on an empty stomach, and dear one doesn't drink. In the afternoon, we managed to score some oranges, and huddled together and scarfed the closest thing to real food we were to get.
For the first time in my life, I felt I had found my home, with him. Miserable together, hungry, cold, isloated- we kept each other's spirits up. A Christmas to compare all other holidays with.

Anna Piutti said...

I know this is going to sound silly, but one of my best Christmas memories is finding a Japanese squirrel in a red cage under the tree when I was about 6...of course, I thought it came from Santa Claus, and it all seemed so magical...Gosh...LOL!
Thus, I would say: a moment and a gift.

Anna Piutti said...


Mary said...

Ah what a beautiful memory, Patry.

Mine is: as a child catching a train with my mother at London Paddington station to spend Christmas in Wales with my grandfather and his wife. The excitement of the journey, and my grandfather waiting with open arms at the end - and the memory of his wonderful Christmas tree as well.

A very Merry Christmas to you and your family, and thank you for shining your light this year.

Perfect Virgo said...

I think (c) my father's father who was blind from childhood. He died 3o years ago but I can remember his charming but distant smile throughout Christmas Day as he listened to the sounds of fun and laughter. I just noticed your name change and I am waiting for your first unpredictable outburst!

Kerstin said...

What a wonderful moment you are describing. I can almost feel the warmth and love.

Am I allowed two?

1. Christmas as a child in Germany. This was by far my favourite time of year. Not only did I have an advent's calendar opening doors from 1-24, I also kept a selfmade one where I counted the days DOWN 24-1. Lighting the first candle on our advent's wreath on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Going iceskating on the frozen lakes and coming home all glowing, red cheeked and bright eyed. Oh, the anticipation of it all. But my fondest memory is that of going to church on Christmas Eve. For this you have to understand that I have never believed in a God, I don't know if I am an atheist, I guess the term agnostic is more appropriate. But boy, did I LOVE the service on Christmas Eve. Everything about it, the church filled with adults and kids all dressed up and excited (surely they were like me!), the sermon about peace on earth, and then ... the MUSIC, the old fashioned Christmas carols. Silent Night and Oh, Christmas Tree sang by the angelic choir and the audience. The last song, every year, was "Oh, Du Froehliche" (I don't know the eqivalent in English) and that was it ... my favourite moment, as I sang my heart out, which was filled with so much joy and happiness that I was about to burst!

2. This is a,c and d all in one. My husband's proposal on Christmas Eve on this bridge in Cologne last year. We were spending Christmas with my family in Germany and he did his research on the internet to find out the number of steel posts on the bridge so that he could count them down as he was leading unsuspecting me to the exact middle. He actually gave me a purple ribbon instead of the ring because he was afraid that I'd drop it into the river! This was my first ever (and hopefully last) proposal and I can't describe how happy I felt in that moment, standing on this amazing bridge in my home town, on my favourite day of the year, with the man I love and will spend the rest of my life with.

Have a wonderful Christmas, Patry :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Sorry I missed your survey...but OOOH, Powell's! My favorite bookstore--it's one of the best things about living in Portland. One of my favorite holiday memories was our last Christmas on the mainland before moving to the tropics. We stayed up late on Christmas Eve and helped my brother and sister-in-law 'play Santa.' My oldest niece (who's 15 now) left a letter to Santa...asking him to PLEASE come upstairs and wake her and her sister...not for her, mind you...but just for her 2-year-old sister's benefit. :) My boyfriend wrote a Santa response...we made sure the cookies and milk looked like they'd been consumed...and then, watching the faces of the kids (I also have a nephew) on Christmas morning. That was the last time we got to see them all believe in Santa. We're about to head over there in a few hours (I'm so happy to be back on the West Coast). The little one's 8 now...but still believes...can't wait to witness her glee. :)

MB said...

A moment from childhood: the only year the tree was positioned in the middle of the room... Christmas Even, holding hands in a circle, all of us, around the lit tree, with the golden evening light filtering in through the windows, singing in 3 part harmonies.

Merry Christmas, Patry!


Joel said...

Grumble grumble -- Gotta change the links....

I never remembered being taken to a bookstore, spun around, and told to buy something!

DTclarinet said...

What a sweet essence you've distilled with your memnory.

"the real live music was the laughter and talk that flowed around the room, and looped through the house"

My memories meld together into an essence as well: the careful and sodden purpose, the basking inner glow, the hearth of the family, good friends, smells of food shared, a general well being, but more vital, poignant. There's a storybook quality to those mamories. Rarefied.

Thanks for your friendship. May the light in your heart shine long and bright.

Anonymous said...

What a phenemenal memory you have. I remember by event or sensation. I can remember opening a box mystified to what it was and the flash on the back of my eyeballs and shock that such a large box was full of the scent of new book glue smell. Books, new books for me. I must have been about 7 or 8

Anonymous said...

Hi again, Patry.
I could read comments all day, especially by the people that have found you and responded. I'm a better lurker than blogger and commenter. Anyway, like a Rorschach test, I thought I would post my response to the survey by writing down the first thing that came into my mind when I read the question. Then I started thinking too much and also reading the comments and the moment to do that passed. Sort of. I still find that I don't feel like it's going to be as honest an answer if I think about it too much, and, honestly, I'm still thinking that my answer needs to come from the heart, not the brain. So here goes.

My best holiday memory is, like every year, from this morning. The twelve year old screamed with happiness over the pricely Ipod. The nine year old ran into the falily room with the remote control dinosaur. The wife loved the leather jacket. I got a tent and am already planning some trips in the Park.

It's a continuation of the memories I have of growing up. The simple gathering of a family on Christmas morning as each person opens presents and exclaims with joy. The smiles passed between the parents. I am truly blessed, and though I continue to pester God with questions, I truly believe there's a reason for all this. Thank you for your blog.

Anonymous said...

BTW, my answer is, if you couldn't tell, "a spiritual moment." It just happens every year.

rdl said...

I guess I would have to say C, when my son was younger and still believed. It's not at all the same now with electronics instead of toys.

Matthew said...

hm... B/D. i think of musical surroundings, which, for me, are quite spiritual, indeed. with regards to Christmas, anyway, the music is the msot beautiful part (i'm going to say the birth of Jesus doesn't really count in that estimation, seeing as it't the whole point...) and i can't remember a Christmas where music didn't play a large part...

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